Oct 28

Six Other Reasons PR Firms Get Fired

Lucy Siegel of Bridge Global Strategies recently authored a blog entitled, 'Six Reasons PR firms Get  Fired.'  As someone who's been a journalist, a corporate communications manager and a PR agency manager, Lucy knows her stuff.

I agree with each and every one of her points. But, I'd add six other reasons PR firms get fired:
Fortune-cookie-youre-fired-message
1) There's a new sheriff in town. We've won business when a former client becomes the new top dog at an organization and brings us along. We've also been shown the door when a new head of corporate communications wants her own PR firm. It happens all the time.
2) The client falls in love with someone else. The CEO of one large agency is absolutely nonpareil in his ability to wine and dine other agency's clients. He's taken a big one away from us in the past and has quite the reputation for doing the same thing to just about everyone else.
3) Bait-and-switch. Big agencies still front load their new business pitches with superstars from the Obama, Bush and Clinton administrations who promise to open doors. Then, when the prospect hires the agency, a bunch of 23-year-old junior account executives show up.
4) Account staff turnover. Every agency loses people, but some (such as the one run by the wine-and-dine guy mentioned above) are revolving doors. Clients hate having to re-train new account managers and fire agencies as a result.
5) Different offices or practice groups fighting over who owns the client relationship. This is another reason big agencies lose clients. I remember witnessing first-hand a major power struggle within Hill & Knowlton between my boss and the head of another practice to see who would own the new P&G client. P&G hated the internecine warfare and fired us.
6) Agencies become newsmakers. Clients do not like seeing their agencies making negative news. So, when H&K was raked over the coals in the early 1990s for manufacturing news for the government of Kuwait, there was a wholesale client defection. Ketchum and Edelman have also taken very public bruising for past misdeeds. And, McGarryBowen was just identified as one of the sources of leaks that enabled environmental activist groups to hijack client Chevron's 'We agree' campaign. That cannot be sitting well at Chevron HQs right now.

What have Ms Siegel and I missed? Why else do PR firms get fired? Do blogs about getting fired cause firings? I sure hope not.

Aug 26

The Main Event

BUSH-BOXING_s1-2741 Obama boxing1 Jim Lampley: ‘Good evening HBO fight fans and  welcome to what’s already being called the communications fight of the century, if not the millennium. We’re here at the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Resort in Las Vegas for the long-anticipated and completely over-hyped World Heavyweight Communications Championship bout between defending champion Barack ‘The One’ Obama and the challenger, former President George W. ‘The Decider’ Bush.

As fight fans know, this special, one-round bout is being co-sponsored by MSNBC and Fox News, and the outcome will be determined by three Supreme Court justices sitting here at ringside.

As always, I’m joined by longtime boxing analyst, Larry Merchant, as well as a very special guest, Former President William Jefferson Clinton. Larry, Mr. President, thanks for being here.’

Merchant: ‘Jim, I haven’t seen this sort of excitement since March 8, 1971, when Ali and Frazier squared off for the first of their three classic bouts. Whether this contest will live up to the drama of that one remains to be seen.’

Clinton: ‘That’s funny, Larry. This sort of frenzy reminds me of my impeachment trial way back when. It’s really got something for everyone.’

Lampley: ‘It sure does, Mr. President. To begin with, who would have guessed just 18 months ago that The Decider would be entering the ring against The One to determine which of the two men is the better communicator? But, since being elected, Obama has made every mistake in the communications handbook, so here we are.’

Merchant: ‘For W, it’s a rags-to-riches story worthy of Cinderella Man, Jim.’

Lampley: ‘It sure is. Because as even the least literate boxing and communications fan knows, W was routinely pilloried for his verbal flubs and guffaws, and ridiculed as perhaps the least literate president in American history.’

Clinton: ‘I’d like to think that William Henry Harrison said more substantive things in his brief one-month stint than W did in his eight years, Jim.’

Lampley: ‘Be that as it may, Mr. President. Obama’s flip-flopping miscues are making many right-wing pundits wax poetic about W’s sophomoric, yet direct, communications style. Some are even suggesting W is the better communicator of the two. Well, that will be decided in the ring in just a matter of seconds. So, let’s go up to Michael Buffer now for the official introductions…’

Buffer: ‘Good evening to the thousands of communications fight fans in attendance here and the millions watching on TV around the world and on The Armed Forces Network. Now, ladies and gentlemen let’s get ready to RUMBLLLLLE! First, the challenger, fighting out of the red corner and hailing from Crawford, Texas, via Kennebunkport, Maine. He tips the scale at a lean and mean 185 pounds, and is wearing all-white trunks with bald eagles on either side. Ladies and the gentlemen, the 43rd president of the United States, George W. ‘The Decider’ Bush! And, in the blue corner, wearing the requisite red, white and blue trunks, tipping the scales at a tight and taut 166 pounds, and coming to us from our nation’s capitol, via Chicago and Honolulu, the defending heavyweight communications champion of the world, President Barack ‘the One’ Obama!’

Lampley: The two men are coming to the center of the ring now for their instructions from referee Katie Couric. Say, is that yet another new hairdo on Katie, Mr. President?’

Clinton: ‘It was all mussed up the last time I saw it. Oops. Wait. Hold on, I did not have sex with that woman!’

Merchant: ‘Jim, both fighters are in amazing shape.’

Lampley: ‘Yup. W’s been doing extra mountain biking on his ranch, while the president’s been playing lots of pick-up round ball games on the White House basketball court. And, there’s the opening bell for this special, one-round fight.’

Merchant: ‘Obama’s off to a great start.’

Clinton: ‘No question. He’s very focused on change. That’s confusing W. And, he’s using that very same ‘change’ punch that floored Hillary on more than one occasion. He looks sharp. Hey, get a load of that blond in section C!’

Lampley: ‘Careful, Mr. President. Man, this place is lousy with Presidents. Wait, there’s been a palpable change. Just like that, Obama seems to be back pedaling?  He looks confused. Larry?’

Merchant: ‘Obama’s confused all right. He’s trying to say do everything at once. There’s his health care backhand. Easily deflected. And, there’s his education overhand. Air ball. And, he just missed badly with his so-called Wall Street wacker. And what’s going on with his Iraq drawdown and Afghani build-up? Nothing is working for the sitting President.’

Lampley: ‘Simultaneously, W continues to throw the same, direct, methodical punch time and again. That’s the punch that he affectionately nicknames his “Yer either fer me or agin me” left. It’s hitting its mark, to be sure.’

Merchant: ‘That last shot staggered Obama. Jim, he looks hurt!’

Lampley: ‘Down goes Obama! Down goes Obama! Down goes Obama!’

Clinton: ‘I feel his pain.’

Merchant: ‘Obama’s up, but he’s on Queer Street. Could be because he never really addressed the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” military conundrum. Either way, this sure won’t help his approval ratings.’

Lampley: “There’s the bell, which mercifully ends this round and this fight. The decision will go to the judges. But first, let’s turn to our two experts. Larry, Mr. President: ‘Did Obama’s early lead pile up enough points to offset that damaging knockdown by W?’’

Merchant: ‘The onus is always on the challenger to prove to the judges that he’s done enough to win. I don’t think W has done that.’

Clinton: ‘I need to meet someone, Jim. I’ll catch you boys later. Go Obama!’

Lampley: ‘Well, let’s find out. We go now to Michael Buffer in the ring for the official decision…’

Buffer: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we have a split decision. Judge Rosa Sotomayor scores the fight one to nothing for Obama. Judge Clarence Thomas scores the fight one to nothing for Bush. And, Chief Judge John Roberts scores the right one to nothing for the NEW heavyweight communications champion of the world, George W. Bush!!!!!’

Lampley: A shocking upset to be sure! Let’s go to Larry Merchant in the ring, who is with both fighters.’

Merchant: ‘Ok, Jim. First, President Obama. What went wrong? You were ahead early with your message of change. Then, all hell broke loose.’

Obama: ‘I went with change. But, then I changed change. Changing change changed my chances.’

Merchant: ‘I have no idea what you just said. But, good luck to you. Now to the victor. President Bush. How’d you do it?’

Bush: ‘Smoked him out, just like bin Laden!’

Merchant: ‘But, you never smoked out bin Laden.’

Bush: ‘Doesn’t matter. I’m the decider. Mission accomplished.’

Merchant: ‘Mr. President, would you consider giving President Obama a rematch?’

Bush: ‘Shucks no. I want to take on that feisty momma from Alaska. Now that would be a communications brawl. The English language won’t know what hit it.’

Lampley: ‘All right. There you have it. There you have it. A big George W. Bush upset. Clearly, The One wasn’t the one tonight. Bush now holds the heavyweight title for best Presidential communicator. Regardless of whether he entertains a rematch or takes on the woman who can see Russia from her front porch, be sure to join us next month for the world’s middleweight communications bout. It’ll feature Carly ‘The Confuser’ Fiorini and ‘Big Bad’ Meg Whitman (who’s been known to manhandle friend and foe alike). For Larry Merchant and the missing-in-action former President Bill Clinton, this is Jim Lampley.’

Jun 01

The empathy gene


June 1
I
happened to catch The Bill Maher Show the other night and overheard a
discussion about President Obama's handling of the Gulf disaster. Regardless of
one's perception of how well or poorly Obama has done, Maher said, he lacks
'the empathy gene.'

I
found the observation particularly astute. Obama does lack the empathy gene and
reminds me of what I've read about President Woodrow Wilson. I've just
completed a book entitled, 'George, Nicholas and Wilhelm' by Miranda Carter. It
details the three royal cousins and grandsons of Queen Victoria whose
dysfunctional relationships and management helped precipitate World War I.
According to Ms. Carter, there were very few things all three monarchs agreed upon.
One, though, was Wilson, whom Wilhelm described as an 'unmitigated, academic
bore.'

Indeed,
Wilson's highly-documented intellectual snobbery and near-total lack of
compassion contributed to his failure to convince Congress to agree to join the
League of Nations (the U.N.'s predecessor). That, in turn, set in motion the
chain of events that eventually led to World War II.

Obama
is a modern-day Wilson. He has shown a complete lack of empathy towards the
Gulf disaster and its inhabitants. Sure, he's held press conferences and made a
visit or two. But, where's the tearing eyes of a Ronald Reagan or the
hysterical sobbing of a William Jefferson Clinton? The country in general, and
the Gulf Shore in particular, desperately need to see some empathy from 44.

The
missing empathy gene got me thinking about how the various presidents in my
lifetime might have demonstrated empathy in the midst of the Gulf calamity.

Here's
what I came up with. See if you agree:


Obama: Cool, calm and collected to a fault. Zero empathy.


W: He'd be curled up in front of the tube watching a Texas Rangers game,
totally oblivious to the disaster. When finally informed, he'd defer to Cheney,
who'd laud BP for its rapid response.


Clinton: His tears would rival the number of gallons of oil spilled to date.
The man would be beside himself (and probably cozying up to a comely Alabama
intern to help him deal with his own, inner demons).


41
: I think George H.W. Bush would have paid multiple visits but, lacking the
vision thing as well as any understanding of the common man, would probably
register low on the empathy gene scale.


Reagan: He'd know exactly what to do. He'd shed a tear or two, make us proud of
the relief workers and remind us that America's gotten through bigger crises in
the past. It would be one of his very, best roles.


Carter: Jimmy, Roslyn and Amy would not only be on-site full-time. They'd be
dressed in overalls and fully immersed in picking up debris and building protective
barrier reefs.


Ford: A genuinely good guy who had a degree of empathy. I think he'd say and do
the right thing.


Nixon: Forget it. A blue serge suit doesn't work well in those humid Gulf
temperatures. Plus Nixon would blame those nattering nabobs of negativity, the
press, for making a mountain out of a molehill.


LBJ: A Texas native and someone who looked like he was in constant pain, I
believe LBJ would have risen to the occasion and demonstrated the right
combination of empathy, sympathy and pathos.


JFK: He was all about his own image as The Cold Warrior. Displaying any sign of
weakness was a sure sign to the Soviets that JFK lacked the spine to fight a
nuclear war. No tears on the Gulf for this short-lived king of Camelot.


Ike: He was the guy who first warned us about the military-industrial complex
(think: Goldman Sachs and the Securities & Exchange Commission and BP and
MMS). Ike also managed the D-Day invasion. He'd find the fastest solution, but
he'd do so in a cold, dispassionate manner.

Questions?
Comments? Issues? Top-kill alternatives?

May 09

Hillary would never make it as a timekeeper

Senator Hillary Clinton told reporters Wednesday that it ‘was still early’ in the campaign season and thatHillary_2
‘…the dynamic electoral environment’ could still swing her way.

Gimme a break. Early in the campaign season? It’s one minute to midnight and Hill’s goose is cooked. Her refusal to concede and allow the fractured Democratic Party to unite behind Barack Obama is disingenuous, deceitful and depressing.

I’ve never been a fan of Senator Clinton’s, but she’s sunk to a new low with this latest statement.

The time (pun intended) to finally step up and display some class and graciousness is now. Mark Penn and the rest of Hill’s consultants need to tell her what any public relations professional would tell a client in a similar situation. Do what’s best for the brand. And, the brand in this case is the Democratic Party.

The longer Hill delays, the more likely ’43’ will be succeeded by John McCain as our 44th president. So, look at your wristwatch, Senator Clinton. It’s later then you think.

Mar 27

1.67 pennies for your thoughts

The U.S. Mint recently admitted that it now costs 1.67 cents to produce a single penny. They say penniesPenny_2
now are 97.5 percent zinc with thin copper plating and admit that the value of the metal exceeds the coin’s face value! To borrow Peppercom’s Deb Brown’s favorite expression, ‘you simply can’t make this stuff up.’

So, in a period of tremendous economic uncertainty, market flux and job loss, our country is deficit-spending to create coins that no one wants or uses. What’s wrong with this picture? A penny for your thoughts. Make that 1.67 pennies for your thoughts.

I’m surprised I haven’t read more news stories about this farce. I’m also surprised McCain, Hill or Barry haven’t jumped on the issue to position it as yet another example of big government waste. God knows Clinton and Obama need something right now to distract negative stories.

If I were running the show, I’d tell the U.S. Mint management team we’ll be deducting an extra .67 cents from their annual salaries for every new penny they make. That should get their attention. I’d also enroll them in an Economics 101 class ASAP.

Whoever’s running the U.S. Mint is one bad penny. One might even call them cents less.

Thanks to Deb Brown for the idea.